As part of our #WhySI campaign sharing why Southern Illinois is a great place to live, work, and do business, we spoke with Brandon Weisenberger, owner of Fisheye Kayak Rentals about his experience running a business here. Fisheye Kayak Rentals offers delivery and pickup of recreational kayaks and associated equipment at public boat ramps on numerous Southern Illinois waterways in addition to delivering directly to homes and vacation rentals with lake access.
How do the Southern Illinois people, community, culture, and/or resources contribute to your success in running a business here?
Our most important resource as an aquatic recreation operation is, obviously, water. And we are certainly well-positioned with nearly 25,000 acres of beautiful, well-maintained lakes in our service area throughout Jackson and Williamson counties. It would take years for even the most dedicated explorer to cover all that paddling potential.
On and near those waterways are the various components of a vast tapestry of recreational opportunity – marinas, hiking trails, swimming, guided tours, shuttle busses, zip lines, eateries, wineries, specialty shops, scenic lookouts, hunting, historical landmarks, and so much more. All of us in the leisure and tourism industry here understand we are stronger together, so recommendations for other activities from the in-the-know experts keep the wheels turning all year long.
Why do you love running a business in Southern Illinois?
Our entire crew was either raised in Southern Illinois or gladly adopted this region as home years ago. Because of that, we don’t have to put too much effort into developing the basic values that make a business truly successful – hard work, treating others with respect, and having an honest reputation. Those values came naturally through our upbringing, and those values are appreciated by our customers both locally and from abroad.
People here also appreciate innovation and fresh ideas. Just look at the incredible reception for the unique food trucks that popped up over the past year and a half for proof of that. For us, we had no prior connections to the business world or the tourism industry before launching this operation. So far, we have experienced nothing short of encouragement and support.
Why do you love living in Southern Illinois?
Our family has long considered Southern Illinois an ideal base of operations. We enjoy exploring other states and vacation destinations, but we are always glad to fall back into small-town life. This is a great place to raise a family, your hard-earned dollar goes further here, and the pace is a bit on the slower side.
Through our involvement in the regional tourism industry, we also know this area is absolutely a destination for folks from all over the globe. The Shawnee National Forest, the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, the wineries and microbreweries, renowned restaurants, and our excellent higher education institutions all attract curious travelers. While we are a hop and a skip away from the major metropolitan areas of Chicago, St. Louis, and Nashville, we are fortunate to see world-class entertainment pass through our venues on a regular basis, along with no shortage of college sports. If you ever find yourself “bored” on any given day, you simply aren’t looking in the right spots.